mirac-, mira-, mir-

(Latin: to wonder at, wonderful; causing one to smile)

There are two ways of spreading one's light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

—Edith Wharton (1862-1937)
miraculously (adverb), more miraculously, most miraculously
In a remarkable and astounding manner: Miraculously no one was injured in the accident that involved several vehicles going out of control on the icy highway.
miraculousness (s) (noun) (usually no plural form)
An unusual or fantastic event which is believed to be caused by the will of God: The miraculousness of his discovering how to accomplish complicated computer objectives, without the help of a technical expert, Jim thought could only be a result of divine guidance.
mirador (s) (noun), miradors (pl)
1. A window, balcony, or small tower providing an extensive view: The fair maiden stood on the mirador and watched the jousting match that was being performed in the courtyard below.
2. Etymology: from Catalan mirar, "to view" and Spanish, "to look"; from Latin mirari, "to wonder at".
mirage (s) (noun), mirages (pl)
1. An optical phenomenon that creates the illusion of water, often with inverted reflections of distant objects, and results from distortion of light by alternate layers of hot and cool air: When the surface is horizontal, and below the eye, the mirage is that of a sheet of water in which the object is seen "duplicated"; when the mirrorlike surface is above the eye, the image is seen projected against the sky.

The "twin" mirage is seen, commonly in an inverted position, while the real object may or may not be in sight.

An optical effect, as sometimes seen in a mirage on the ocean, but which is more frequently caused by the mirroring of light on the surface that is common to the two levels of air being heated differently.

2. Something illusory, unattainable, or insubstantial: Succeeding as an author sometimes felt like a mirage for Steve's friend who received yet another rejection slip from a publisher.
3. Etymology: from French, mirer, "to look at"; from Latin mirari, "to wonder at", from mirus, "wonderful".

Miranda (s) (noun) (no plural)
1. A female given name from a Latin word meaning "to be admired": As the heroine of the novel, Miranda was a great beauty and a successful poet.
2. Etymology: Latin for "admirable".
mirific (adjective), more mirific, most mirific
Conveying the working of astonishment; referring to being marvelous: The new violin created the most mirific sounds, thrilling the performing artist.
mirifical (adjective), more mirifical, most mirifical
Awesome, amazing, magnificent: The view from the mountain top was the most mirifical site that the couple had ever experienced during their tour of the mountain region.
mirror (s) (noun), mirrors (pl)
1. A reflecting surface, originally of polished metal but now usually of glass with a silvery, metallic, or amalgam backing: The ancient doctors might have held a mirror of shiny metal under the nose of a patient to determine whether he or she was still breathing.
2. A flat area set into a frame, attached to a handle, etc., for use in viewing oneself or as an ornament: Small framed hand mirrors were considered an appropriate courtship gift many years ago.
3. Any flat and shiny plane; such as, the surface of calm water under certain lighting conditions: The top level area of the lake was a perfect mirror, reflecting the rising moon and trees along the shores by the water.
4. Optics, an expansion that is either plane, concave, or convex and that sends back rays of light: Powerful telescopes use mirrors to gather the light rays in order to view the night skies.
5. Something that gives a minutely faithful representation, image, or idea of something else: The description of the grumpy old man in the story was a perfect mirror of Mark's unpleasant uncle who lived in an attic.
6. A pattern for imitation; exemplar: Henry was a man who was the mirror of self-discipline.
7. A glass, crystal, or the like, used by magicians, diviners, etc.: The fortune teller gazed into the mirror, fascinated by the light patterns, seeking to understand the predictions he felt were indicated there.
8. Etymology: from Old French mireor, "a reflecting glass," earlier miradoir (11th century), from mirer, "look at", from Vulgar (Common) Latin mirare, from Latin mirari, "to wonder at, to admire".

The most common use of mirrors is in the home for personal grooming, but mirrors are also used in scientific apparatus; such as, telescopes and lasers, and in industrial machinery.

Most mirrors are designed for visible light; however, mirrors designed for other wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation are also used, especially in optical instruments.

The history and development of mirrors

The mirror of the ancient Greeks and Romans was a disk of metal with a highly polished face, sometimes with a design on the back, and usually with a handle.

Glass mirrors date from the Middle Ages.

They were made in large numbers in Venice from the 16th century, the back being covered with a thin coating of tin mixed with mercury; after 1840, a thin coating of silver was generally substituted.

The introduction of plate glass for mirrors (17th century) stimulated the use of large stationary mirrors as part of household furniture.

Small bits of silvered glass were often used in the East to adorn articles of clothing and of decorations.

The metal trench hand mirror of World War I revived the manufacture of mirrors of this type. More recently, aluminum was introduced as the reflecting material because it is almost as efficient as silver but is more resistant to oxidation. Mirrors play an important part in the modern astronomical telescope.

Mirrors and telescopes

Telescopes and other precision instruments use front silvered mirrors, where the reflecting surface is placed on the front surface of the glass, which gives better image quality.

Some of them use silver, but most are aluminum, which is more reflective at short wavelengths than silver.

All of these coatings are easily damaged and require special handling. They reflect 90% to 95% of the incident light when new.

The coatings are typically applied by vacuum deposition. A protective overcoat is usually applied before the mirror is removed from the vacuum, because the coating otherwise begins to corrode as soon as it is exposed to oxygen and humidity in the air. Front silvered mirrors have to be resurfaced occasionally to keep their quality.

—Compiled from information provided by
Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery by Isaac Asimov;
Harper & Row, Publishers; New York; 1989, page 85.

Mirrors have been a part of literature

  • In Greek mythology, the hero Perseus killed Medusa by using a mirrored shield so as not to gaze directly upon her monstrous appearance.
  • In English literature, a famous example is Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, in which protagonist Alice uses a mirror as a portal to a strange alternate world.
  • Another example is found in the fairy tale Snow White, in which the Wicked Queen consults a magic mirror to determine the identity of the most beautiful woman in the world.
  • In the Harry Potter novel, Philosopher's Stone, the "Mirror of Erised" is a magic mirror that reflects its viewer's deepest desires.
  • Also featured in the series is a type of device (a dark detector) that functions as a mirror, depicting not only the gazer but also a number of shadowy figures in the background who are enemies and their proximity to the viewer represents their imminent threat.

mirror (verb), mirrors; mirrored; mirroring
1. To be very similar to something: Joyce's mood mirrored the feeling of failure.
2. To show the image of something on a surface: It was easy to see the building being mirrored in the lake.

A computer programmer can mirror a process that exactly duplicates computer information from one location to another.

3. In psychiatry, a technique in psychodrama in which another person in the group plays the role of the patient who is watching the enactment as if he or she were gazing into a mirror: The first person may exaggerate one or more aspects of the patient's behavior that was mirroring his or her actions.

Following the portrayal, the patient is usually encouraged to comment on what he or she has seen during the process as it was being mirrored.

mirror like, mirror-like, mirrorlike (adjective); more mirror like, more mirror-like, more mirrorlike; most mirror like, most mirror-like, most mirrorlike
Capable of reflecting light like a looking glass: Jim and Jane admired the mirror-like surface of the lake.
mirrored (adjective), more mirrored, most mirrored
1. To reflect in or as if in a looking glass: The building had mirrored walls in which the sky was clearly duplicated.
2. Like or characteristic of an image or someone who looks like another person: Henry is the mirrored image of his father.

A person who sees herself, or himself, in a mirrored reflection of the looking glass as someone he or she wants to be and not necessarily who that individual really is.

A woman sees herself as being a younger woman.
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Related "mirror" word families: catoptro-; eisoptro-; enoptro.

A cross reference of another word family that is related directly, or indirectly, to: "miracle, wonder, wondrous": thaumato-.